Monday, May 2, 2011

Pity or Compassion

I came across some interesting thoughts on the difference between compassion and pity, both for self and for others. These two motivations would differ in people who might be trying to develop the world/ do social work out of sheer pity, and not really compassion. I feel the actual impact too might differ.

There is an idea that pity is an outpouring of empathy so strong that you may be tempted to help more out of the need to ease your own sense of guilt or obligation than real compassion.The central character in pity is YOU. YOU feel bad because of whatever the problem may be, and by helping you make yourself feel better.

In pity one sees the other person as being needy in some way. And thus the pity cycle may go on like pity-contempt-guilt-more pity. Some also say that in pity, you respond out of a sense of objective justice. while in compassion, you respond due to an internal, personal love for the affected.

Even when the other person has asked for help, it still makes the other person feel inferior and the first one a hero or martyr. On the other hand people usually dislike a 'do-gooder' who treats others as a means for self fulfillment in some way. Fulfillment of meaning or a profession? Guess pity will bring a lot of resistance from anyone who observes the dynamics.

(A friend of mine used to joke, her dad advised her to join social work course because it has good career prospect. The more there is problem in the world the more this career will be in demand in the market!)

Further it gets challenging and draining for the 'do-gooder' too.

Guess that is why in Buddhism Pity is considered as the ‘near enemy’ of compassion.

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